U.S. News

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson bans death penalty

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson waves while speaking before Democratic presidential nominee U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) speaks at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado August 28, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Segar

PHOENIX (Reuters) - New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson signed a bill to repeal the death penalty in the state and replace it with a sentence of life imprisonment without parole, his office said on Wednesday.

Last week, the state’s Democratic-controlled Senate voted 24-18 for a bill to revoke the death penalty. It had already been passed by New Mexico’s House of Representatives.

Richardson, a Democrat, previously supported the death penalty. The decision to repeal it marked the “end of a long personal journey on the issue,” he said in a news release.

There are two prisoners currently on death row in the state.

New Mexico is the 15th state to abandon capital punishment, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. New York and New Jersey repealed capital punishment in 2007 and bills to abolish it are pending in several states, the center said.

New Mexico has carried out only one execution since the death penalty was reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976. Neighboring Texas is America’s most active death penalty state.

There have been more than 1,130 executions in the United States since the 1970s.

Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Peter Cooney